Every week in class I give my students the option of homework, but I know all to well that most won’t be able to set aside large chunks of time to work on their technique or polish their performance. So how do you manage to get your training fitted in between work, family, friends, housework etc.?
My advice is always to structure it to fit into your current everyday life – not your perfect or dream scenario. There isn’t a magic solution that will fit all, and if you try to fit a set amount into your existing schedule, which I bet is already pretty full, you’re likely to fail at the first hurdle.
Start by asking yourself how important your training is. If you’re already dancing at a high level or are preparing for a show, then you’re more likely to find the time to set aside say 30 minutes or longer several times a week. Your dedication to training will grow proportionately with your dedication to dancing, so don’t expect to make big changes over night.
Look at how to fit small chunks in several times during your week or maybe even day. Practice whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, brushing your teeth or waiting in a queue (okay this will depend on what move you’re doing or how big a coat you’re wearing to disguise the fact that you are!). I often do drills whilst watching TV or playing with my little one. I have also been known to do it whilst out shopping! You’re more likely to get a few minutes in here and there than setting aside long chunks of time.
What if you’re not sure whether you’re doing it right? Well go back to basics. Start out building the move or combination that you’re working on from scratch and see if you can make it flow. Practicing makes permanent and not necessarily perfect! So if you’re drilling a new move and really aren’t confident you’re doing it right, then stop and go over it with your dance teacher next time you see them.
Unlearning bad habits is a lot harder than learning new moves…
If you’re training for a big show, competition or similar, then the same guidelines apply. Do lots, little and often. That’s more likely to improve your technique and muscle memory. Do also practice with a mirror, but not all the time. It won’t be there when you’re performing, so you need to get used to looking into space, or even better, other people’s eyes (or just above their heads so it looks like you’ve got eye contact, but are more likely not to lose your nerve!).
Film yourself dancing and then review it – but without talking yourself down. Give yourself constructive criticism, and look at what you can improve. If you can’t look at yourself on screen, then start by having a fellow dancer (of similar level or higher) that your feel comfortable with, give you feedback. Use your dance teacher if you can. Once you’ve done this a few times you may want to start using video footage again to improve your technique and performance.
However, let me repeat that the feedback you get from others as well as yourself has to be ‘constructive’. Very few people like to watch themselves on screen, but focus on the dancing and not the person. You’re likely to be your own worst critic, so therefore it can be very useful to have other people, who know about dancing, give you feedback. I offer 121s and help dancers polish a performance by giving feedback like that, and have also personally used Master teachers in other countries to do this via Skype. You can read more about how you can work with me here.
I could go on about this subject, as I’ve had so many students over the years asking for advice and sharing with me what’s worked for them… What about you? Have you got any tips to share? Have you found this article useful? Please leave me a comment below so we can keep the conversation and knowledge sharing going.
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Finding you dance/family life balance